Jack Vaughn's connection with the Peace Corps began when founding director Sargent Shriver went to Senegal, where Vaughn was serving in the U.S. embassy with USAID, and recruited him to direct the Latin American program.
The Peace Corps will celebrate its 50th anniversary in February, having long outlived early doubters about its viability.
Vaughn, a Tucsonan, says he was appointed Latin American director in 1961 at a time when many said the program would not last.
“When I said goodbye to [the ambassador] he said, ‘I bet you $10 the Peace Corps won’t last more than 6 months.’ Five years later, I visited him when he had been transferred to the embassy in London and collected my $10,” Vaughn says.
Vaughn not only collected on the bet on the Peace Corps' fifth anniversary, he became the second director of the Peace Corps in 1966, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Vaughn says the mission of the Peace Corps is a simple one and based on three principals: helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; helping promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.
“The Peace Corps is, and was, the complete opposite of ‘the ugly American,” Vaughn says. He laments the international conflicts in which the United States is engaged, and he thinks they do little for the country's image abroad.
"Countering that are the Peace Corps volunteers that stay the course,” Vaughn says.